Tata Steel widens Africa presence

Accra (Ghana), Oct 21 (IANS) Indian steel giant Tata Steel is widening its African presence as it moves to Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to mine for iron ore.

Director-general of Tata Steel Cote d'Ivoire Mukesh Ranjan told IANS here that the company expects to produce about 20 million tonnes of ore from its Bonglo project, some 500 km from the capital Abidjan, when mining begins in 2016.

The company already operates in Mozambique where it has mines for coal and has embarked on a stainless steel project in South Africa

The Cote d'Ivoire project is a joint venture between Tata Steel and the Ivorian state-owned mineral development company SODEMI -- with the Indian firm having a major shareholding of 75 percent. They signed an agreement for development of the Mount Nimba iron ore deposits, which are spread over three countries -- Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and the Republic of Guinea.

Ranjan said the company is currently conducting feasibility studies of the project, which would be followed by construction of facilities at the mine.

The iron ore from this project will be supplied to Tata Steel units, especially those located in Britain and the Netherlands.

Tata Steel signed a joint venture deal six years ago with Australia's Riversdale Mining by which it paid $88.2 million to acquire 35 percent of Riversdale's Benga and Tete licences covering an area of 24,960 hectares, to produce coal in Mozambique.

The coking coal derived from this project will be supplied to Tata Steel's facilities in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. It has already signed the mining contract, and has secured the environmental licences for the Benga Coal Project and the Benga Power Project as well as approval for stage 1 of the Benga Coal Project after completion of the feasibility study for production of 10.6 million tonnes in two phases.

In connection with the project, which has a production potential of 5.3 million tonnes per annum, Tata Steel has also formalised a resettlement action plan, and signed the Project Labour Agreement (PLA) with SINTICIM (the Mozambican National Construction and Mineworkers Union).

(Francis Kokutse can be reached at fkokutse@hotmail.com)

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